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The coastal city, Vancouver is the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada. A town was first founded on this site in 1867 when an entrepreneurial proprietor built a tavern along the water. Since then, towering skyscrapers have grown to dominate the skyline like glittering pinnacles of glass backed by mountains dusted with snow. The vast sprawl of Vancouver is centred around downtown's glimmering milieu of towers. From here unfurls a tapestry of neighbourhoods, each with a distinct character of its own. Kitsilano's beachfront is defined as much by its heritage homes as its pristine sand, Gastown hosts the city's indie culture. Wherever you go, you'll encounter a menagerie of sights to attest to Vancouver's culture-rich soul. Independent art galleries abound alongside swathes of public art, while Shakespearean shows intermingle with a blooming live music offer. There's plenty for outdoor enthusiasts as well, and this is one of the few places where you can ski down a mountain, go kayaking, hike through the forest and lounge on the beach in the same day. At the end of it all, there's a sumptuous array of international restaurants, home to some of North America's most authentic Asian cuisines, fantastic farm-to-table dining and soul-stirring seafood creations; not to mention an extensive list of top-notch craft breweries. All this and more makes Vancouver the crown jewel of British Columbia.
Originally established as a fort for the Hudson's Bay Company back in 1843, Victoria was long known as the most British city in North America. While its heritage is still evident down its cobblestone streets with the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages as the background score, the provincial capital of British Columbia has since been taken over by innovative restaurants, hip coffee bars and specialty boutiques fed by a well-spring of youth. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of antique shops, tearooms and formal gardens scattered in between, as well as stunning formal gardens awash in a myriad of blooms. Top attractions include the Royal BC Museum, Beacon Hill Park and Craigdarroch Castle, followed closely by the Parliament Building and Miniature World. Theater-goers will be spoiled for choice with several top-notch venues to choose from like the Royal Theatre, McPherson Theatre and the Belfry Theatre to name a few. The city is best explored on foot or by bike, with the most cycle routes of any Canadian city just waiting to be explored. Through it all, the scenery oscillates between waterfront views and mountain vistas. For a break from the city, visitors and locals venture outdoors for whale watching tours, kayaking and hiking excursions. Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is a popular destination for day trips.
Located in the heart of Brentwood Bay, The Butchart Gardens are made up of a premier group of beautiful gardens that attract a million visitors every year. The gardens were first started by Jennie Butchart who set-out to convert an exhausted limestone quarry into the now magnificent Sunken Garden. Since then, various gardens and attractions have been added by Jennie Butchart and the following generation of the Butchart family. Hundreds of varieties of flowers burst into a riot of color each season, as the gardens are maintained and bloom throughout the year. Other areas of the park include the Italian garden, the large rose garden, the picturesque Ross Fountain and two totem poles. The gardens are also home to a number of bronze statues and the Rose Carousel, where kids can take a ride on beautifully painted wild animals like zebras, ostriches, boars and horses. This flowering wonderland is a designated national historic site and is a perfect place to visit anytime of the year. The ticket prices are seasonal, so please do check the website.
Yoho National Park is located on the western slope of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and is home to many marvelous animal and plant species. Standing like a surveyor of the land at the center of the park is Mount Burgess, which beckons mountain climbers with its soaring peaks. Visitors to the park will also find the stunning Takakkaw and Wapta Falls, both of which are spectacularly beautiful. Hikers and nature lovers can explore the park's many streams, forests and mountain ranges on well-maintained trails that crisscross through the national park. Visitors centers in the park also offer guided tours.
Named after the Shannon Falls, one of the steepest falls in British Columbia, the Shannon Falls Provincial Park is spread over 215 acres (87 hectares) of lush green wooded areas. With facilities such as picnic areas, hiking and biking trails, and areas for winter sports, the park is a great place to visit for family outings during any season. Located close to Stawamus Chief and Murrin Provincial Parks, Shannon Falls Provincial Park is one of the prettiest parks in the region. Verdant forests suddenly open on to cascading falls and winding rivers.
Steeped in history, Victoria is rich in the remnants of its past. One such National Historic Site is the magnificent Craigdarroch Castle, a Scottish-Baronial mansion that is sure to enthrall history lovers and tourists alike. The castle, which features over 39 rooms, was built by the wealthy Robert Dunsmuir in the late 1800s. This structure is made of granite and houses oak staircases, tiles imported from San Francisco, and exquisite furnishings. The castle has been featured in many films and also plays hosts to theater events each year. Thanks to renovations and upkeep, the castle is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Victoria. Tour the beautiful mansion and explore this incredible Victorian marvel. Check the website for varying open days.
Spanning 511 square kilometers (197 square miles) of British Columbia's vast landscape, this expansive natural reserve facing the Pacific Ocean is one of Canada's treasured gems. The park encompasses both terrestrial and marine areas. The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is made up of two distinct areas: Vancouver Island's shelf marine region and the forests of the Pacific Coast Mountain region. Its rugged beauty is segregated into the West Coast Trail, Long Beach and Broken Group Islands, each of which feature distinct natural features. Erstwhile home of the Nuu-chah-nulth tribe, the park's aboriginal heritage does not escape the boundaries of the park even today. Besides being home to a verdant temperate rainforest and a shimmering coastline, the park is also a natural oasis for whale and bird watching.
Tucked into the Cheakamus Valley just north of Whistler, the Olympic Village was sustainably designed and built with an LEED Gold Standard Neighborhood Development certification in mind. The village was filled to a capacity of 2850 during the Winter Olympics of 2010 and hosted 1200 for the Winter Paralympics. The community is bordered by the Cheakamus Creek and accessible only by bridge, yet is within a 20-minute shuttle ride to all the competition venues throughout Whistler. After the Olympics, the Village became a training and housing complex for athletes who participate in both winter and summer sports. Visitors to the complex can enjoy many of the activities that were featured at the Olympics, including cross-country skiing and ski jumping. Other activities that can be enjoyed here include snow shoeing and baseboarding.
Made a National Historic Site in 1924 and Provincial Heritage Property in 1958, Barkerville Historic Town is the largest museum of living-history in western North America. The site is named after English prospector William "Billy" Barker who led British Columbia in a multi-billion dollar industrial revolution in 1862. Having had little success in California during the gold rush, Barker and thousands of other prospectors relocated to the small town of Richfield, where they eventually struck gold. Today, Barkerville is a reminder of British Columbia's rich beginnings and serves as a world-class heritage experience.
Created in 2003, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada is the 40th park to be established in the country. Spread across 33 square kilometers (13 square miles), this place is a trove of natural beauty. The climate at this park, with its warm summers and cool winters, is quite pleasant year round. Nature lovers will find Balsam fir, Douglas fir, Garry Oak and red cedar forests, as well as a variety of animals. Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada is home to First Nations communities; visitors can participate in activities that allow them to learn about the communities' traditional cultures. Visitors can also enjoy outdoor activities like diving, hiking, and kayaking. Be sure to keep an eye out for orca whales!
There is so much to do in this small resort town that you may have to make a schedule to manage your stay. Most famous for the large mineral hot springs at the south end of the lake, the world-famous resort is a very popular spot to relax and rejuvenate. The Harrison Hot Springs have been drawing crowds of relaxation-seekers since the late 1800s, when the town around the springs began to transform into a resort destination. Today, visitors to the area will find museums, theme parks, hotels, spas, shops, festivals, restaurants, beaches, an international sand castle contest, wind surfing, sailing, water-skiing, canoeing and more. Camping sites can be found on the east side of the lake.
Flanked by the soaring peaks of the Selkirk Mountains and nestled on the shore of Kootenay Lake, visitors to the area will be hard-pressed to find a more idyllic spot than Nelson. This charming town, which boasts a stunning 350 heritage buildings, was first settled in 1867, when gold and silver were found in the area. Today, visitors to the town can wander its picturesque streets, take a ride on the historic street car, and peruse the town's many art galleries. Other popular activities include nature walks and heritage tours, while there is an endless supply of find dining options to be enjoyed.